Thursday, April 16, 2009

"We Learn ..."

Check out this beautifully written piece by local St. Louisan Mindy Carney:

Refusing to shuffle quietly out the door, one local journalist stands tall

"By acknowledging what we truly believe and why, and by hearing from others who believe differently or who experienced a life vastly different from our own, we learn. Our minds open and expand and we find ways to see interest and creativity and beauty in what we once ignored or even feared."

Ditto, Mindy! -- SB

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Political Eye" Narrows In

Today’s online edition of The St. Louis American’s “Political Eye” is a detailed investigative piece as it pertains to my recent departure from the Post. Readers of this blog can and should visit the full story which contains interesting details, including the following excerpt:

Slay’s spokesman Ed Rhode did not respond to a request for comment. A message left on Slay’s chief of staff Jeff Rainford’s cell phone was not

Post-Dispatch editor Arnie Robbins called the American after being emailed and asked to comment on this claim. “His dismissal was about one thing only: a violation of our ethics policy,” Robbins said of Brown. “The mayor had nothing to do with this. Nothing.”

The EYE has detailed countless instances when the Post – the city’s only daily – rushed to the defense of the mayor or his political allies. The reader’s note by Robbins and Maples about Brown’s dismissal claims, “Our integrity and our credibility with readers is (sic) of utmost importance to us,” but the people who turned out in support of Sylvester would argue that the paper’s coverage of city politics long ago abandoned “integrity” and in so doing damaged the paper’s “credibility.”

In a letter that will run in full next week, a reader of the American and the Post named Grady Brown expressed a commonly held view in the local black community. “Mr. Brown would not be silent to the corruption coming out of the Slay administration,” Grady Brown wrote of Sylvester. “And why should he stand silent and allow this inadequate mayor continue to run this city into the ground?”

In his recently concluded campaign for reelection, surrounded by scandals that burgeoned on his watch and announced development deals that fell through, Slay enjoyed consistent promotion and endorsement from every space in the Post except, on occasion, Sylvester’s column.

Interestingly, Brown’s editors claim he hurt the paper’s “integrity” and “credibility” by accepting a reimbursement check for travel expenses from a non-governmental body he has never written about in the paper. Yet the Post, which covers Slay in every edition, stands to benefit from Slay’s announced lobbying efforts on its behalf in Jefferson City. The mayor’s campaign website lists support for daily newspapers among his legislative priorities for this session. We are not aware of the Post declining assistance from the mayor’s lobbyists to protect its “integrity” and “credibility.”

The Post’s maintenance of these journalistic goals also is called into doubt by a promotional mailer sent to West County ZIP codes last week. The mailer boasts, “We are Right on the Money (in more ways than one)” and takes pride in the paper’s “conservative, relevant view points.” More than half of the featured headlines from recent Post coverage trash Obama. Example: “The end of Obama's magical mystery tour” and “A study in amateurism.”

Can the Post recover? Are there other contenders?

What follows is an interesting article posted on the STL Activist Hub looking at the Post-Dispatch (post-Lee Enterprises) and ponders its future in St. Louis. It reminds me how foolish I've been these past few months writing, preaching and trying to rally the troops to save the great institution. Here's a snippet:

"In particular, Lee brought the idea of a "community advisory board" that would guide the editorial and reporting processes. Says journalism professor Don Corrigan in the article,"It might make sense to have an advisory board at a little paper where the editorial writer is unsure of himself, or knows very little about national issues ... But it makes no sense at a metropolitan newspaper like the Post-Dispatch where the editorial writers are presumably literate, well-informed and perceptive journalists." Furthermore, a quick glance at the members of the Review Board chosen for St. Louis show that it is made up in large part of people (like Mayor Slay, his chief of staff Jeff Rainford, former police chief Joseph Mokwa, and millionaire investor Paul McKee) who already call many of the political shots in the city, and already would have no trouble getting the attention of political reporters. Thus, a small town media company from Iowa bought the Post-Dispatch and immediately decided that it needed to do a better job of framing its content around the opinions of the people in power. And all of this took place after the Post was already
famous (or infamous) for passing on gossip tidbits
from Mayor Slay's public relations guru Richard Callow that pretty clearly served a narrow range of people's political interests."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Response to PD Statement about my Termination

The Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arnie Robbins, and Managing Editor Pam Maples have issued a statement about my termination:

"Sylvester Brown Jr. is no longer writing a column for the Post-Dispatch. Brown accepted the offer of a free trip to Washington from supporters of a group that he had written about in a column the day before ... Brown also had not notified his editors of his trip or the offer ... our ethics policy clearly states the parameters regarding conflict of interest, and what our journalists can and cannot do. Brown declined an opportunity to write a farewell column."

"Supporters of a group ..." Now, that's an interesting spin.

Yes, there are literally dozens of organizations that support the Illinois renewable energy effort as well as other efforts aimed at eliminating poverty world-wide and creating sustainable, reinvigorated urban communities. You know, sort of like the United Way supports hundreds of organizations working to serve the poor and disenfranchised.

So, let's say I'm working on a book (not a column) about nonprofits working to end poverty. Apparently, Post management alleges I'm forbidden to take a trip to the United Way headquarters if its leadership wants to provide me insights into the scope of the problem. Such research for a book, according to my interpretation of the Post's reasoning here, is suspect because I have written columns about local agencies supported by the United Way.


As to my travel without notice: Columnists are not, could not be and have never been nine-to-five employees with posted schedules. Management knows that. Enough said.

Apparently, the Post has a policy that stops a columnist who's been told repeatedly not to write columns on national issues, to "keep things local," from thinking about, researching and investigating a potential book about a national issue on his own.

Funny, no attorney I spoke with or Guild representative who vowed to arbitrate this case could find such a policy statement.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Video from April 13 Press Conference

The "Guild is here for You!"

April 10, 2009

Our local's Executive Committee discussed your termination last night at their monthly meeting। They were shocked to hear that the P-D had fired you for allegedly violating their ethics policy and, after hearing the facts of the case, were pissed off beyond words.

The E.C. voted unanimously to appeal your case to arbitration and, as soon as we talk again, we can discuss that in more detail (so give me a call ASAP).
You're a really caring and decent person। Don't let this setback do anything to change that, and know that your Guild is here for you.

Stay strong.

Shannon Duffy / Business Representative
St. Louis Newspaper Guild
(314) 241-7046

Statement from Sylvester Brown regarding termination from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as issued at press conference on April 13, 2009

Thank you for coming today…

For reasons I think you’ll understand, I humbly ask that you allow me to deliver this prepared statement without follow up questions.

Last week, I learned through my union, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, that upper management at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had decided to discharge me for violating the company’s ethics policy.

On March 27, I was told by upper management to leave the building, pending an investigation. I have not been allowed access since -- not even to gather my personal belongings or to shake hands with the colleagues and friends I’ve made over the past nearly six years.

I’ve called this press conference to bid farewell to my friends at the Post Dispatch and the loyal readers who have made this enjoyable but at times difficult journey with me over the years.

Secondly, I’m here today to stand up for my name and reputation, which in the end, is all we really have.

I’m not going to use this occasion to debate the allegations made against me. We’ve passed out cards with my blog address, “” There, you will be able to review facts related to this battle, keep up with my work and monitor future developments.

In short, management alleges that I took a plane trip to Washington DC on March 26 as a gift in return for a column I wrote on and turned in the day before about a renewable energy project in East St. Louis.

I’m here to tell you that these charges are a gross distortion of the facts, which in my view, have been purposely manipulated to provide cover for far more desperate and nefarious acts within this once proud and honorable institution.

These are indeed desperate times in our industry. I fully expected the Post to drastically trim budgets and cut staff. The number of talented, seasoned journalists, who have been marched out of this building these past few years, speaks volumes about a frantic effort to survive while sacrificing, in my opinion, the integrity and goodwill once enjoyed by the Post-Dispatch.

However, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, I did not expect the Post to stoop to this – even in light of their pattern of distaste for me.

I did not expect my bosses to jump to an erroneous conclusion and immediately reduce me to nothing more than a stereotype.

Upper management, without the common courtesy of an explanation, quickly jumped on a stubborn, punitive, path of action and refused to back down even after the facts refuted their knee-jerk suspicions.

If management had bothered to ask, they would have known that my trip had nothing to do with East St. Louis. If they had taken time to really know me, my past, my passions (inside and outside the Post walls) about investing in black youth and creating vibrant, sustainable urban communities, they would have instinctively understood why the Summit Council for World Peace – an international organization dedicated to addressing the crisis of world-wide poverty – invited me to Washington and offered to reimburse me for the trip.

Unlike the Post, this agency, through former Congressman Walter Fauntroy, took interest in a book I’m working on which calls for a serious re-alignment of the black leadership agenda in order to work in accord with President Obama’s innovative initiatives that may finally effect real, long-lasting change in low-income, urban neighborhoods.

Sadly, management at the Post-Dispatch, in my opinion, embarked on and furthered a small-minded, predictable and divisive agenda, instead of welcoming my project, respecting me and a call for action in perilous times.

Five days after I was locked out the building, the Guild suggested that management at least hear my side of the story. Eleven days after I suspect they combed through my e-mails, looking for evidence to bolster their ridiculous claim, I heard from the guild.

Although I’ve been told that management hasn’t talked to one person involved with the DC trip, they decided to terminate me. A reason cited for my termination, the union tells me, was that management didn’t consider me “remorseful.”

On the same day the company decided to fire me, I learned through the grapevine that two other columnists were given a day’s suspension because they allegedly violated the company’s ethics policy for working with competing media.

The following day, after I heard of my discharge, the union called to share an offer from the Post to “protect my reputation.”

If I agreed to resign, which I understand requires I cannot speak, I would receive four weeks severance pay and the opportunity to freelance and/or write a farewell column. Under this arrangement, I was told, management wouldn’t leak the reasons for my termination.

Well, Post-Dispatch, thanks, but no thanks.

Just as I did not sell out for a plane trip, I do not sell out my integrity, my name or truth.

I’ll protect the reputation I’ve built in this community these past 22 years.

It’s apparent the Post doesn’t know me like my friends, colleagues and this community knows me. So let me be clear: I have no reason to be remorseful. The truth counters a need for remorse. I’m too stubborn to keep my mouth shut, too proud to cast down my eyes, and too old to shuffle.

The Guild’s executive committee voted unanimously to use all necessary resources to arbitrate this case and get my job back. Although I humbly appreciate its valiant support and its decision to fight these allegations, I’m asking the Guild to fight another day, not for me but for whomever is thrown off the ship next.

I couldn’t, in good conscience, ask my union to fight for a job I could never return to.

It’s clear to me that, even though we have worked together for all these years, management has never known me or what I stand for.

That supposed trained management would insinuate that a one day plane trip, where I spent more time in layovers than I did in Washington, was some sort of pay-off for covering an already written story is beyond logic.

Believe it or not, Post-Dispatch, I’ve been on planes before. This was by no means an exotic excursion.

Since I’m convinced such ridiculous logic has little to do with my termination, I’m forced to believe upper management acted on other, far more suspect motivations.

Perhaps it has something to do with the hasty meeting called after certain folks aligned with Mayor Francis Slay, a member of your community advisory board, issued threats to the newspaper after I wrote about his campaign and administration’s thug-like behavior.

Perhaps the real reason you’ve locked me out of the building is to confiscate the e-mails and letters I sent to the executive and managing editor, begging for intervention into what I described as discriminatory, inconsistent and unnecessarily punitive actions based on one editor’s personal, not professional, perceptions.

Maybe this action is a result of the Oct. 2008 letter I sent to management warning that a newsroom, already seriously lacking in diversity at the bottom and top, could ill afford to continuously mute the most visible and consistent black voice in its employ in response to his questioning of rules and policies drafted or enforced specifically for him.

I suspect that this press conference will send management scurrying to bolster their weak allegations. Be careful Post-Dispatch. My attorneys and the Guild are well aware of your stated reasons for my termination and of our tenuous relationship these past few years. As far as I’m concerned, in your gleeful attempt to rid yourselves of a payroll expense and a confrontational columnist, you’ve already defamed enough good people.

Be careful.

In closing, I want to thank the Post Dispatch readers. I will always value what we shared. Yes, our conversations were sometimes warm, sometimes controversial and sometimes contentious; but what family doesn’t have spicy, emotional debates?

I want to also thank my wonderful, talented colleagues – my friend and mentor Bill McClellan – my buddies Aisha Sultan, Deb Petterson, Carolyn Tuft, Steve Giegerich, Doug Moore, Tim O’Neal, Chris Gooden and so many others I fear I’m leaving out who helped me navigate the newsroom’s sometimes bewildering environment. I will also miss the street-wise banter I had every morning with Keith, Jeff, Kim and the rest of the security team.

Finally, I ask no one to feel sorry for me. So many have lost jobs here and across the country, I’m just among them now.

I’m blessed to have a wife, children, family and friends who value dignity over job security, pride over profit, fortitude over fame and truth over personal rewards.

If you will, feel sorry that this community has lost in the pages of the Post what I believe was a valuable and much needed voice that constantly urged St. Louis to rise above its engrained, petty racial and demographic divisions and explore the wonderful potential of its diverse populace.

If you will, feel sorry for my hardworking colleagues who have to continue fighting despite an upper management who are, in my view, so desperate to save their salaries and their own skin that they will stoop to destroying careers.

I walk away confident that I did my dead-level best to live up to the words mounted on the marble wall in the company’s foyer. Those words, by Joseph Pulitzer, say in part:

"Always fight for progress and reform … never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare … never be afraid to attack wrong ...."

I leave this job with a positive vision toward the future, my shoulders girded and my head held high, knowing that I lived up to Mr. Pulitzer’s mandate.

Further, I am more deeply committed to the issues I have championed all these years. I am more convinced than ever that the charge of journalism is a check and balance fourth branch of government.

I insist that even in an age of spin, truth still matters.

Sadly, I believe the Post-Dispatch management cannot make the same claim.

Thank you.

Key Points from April 1 Meeting wherein Sylvester Brown Addressed Post-Dispatch Allegations

On April 1, 2009 I was called into the Post to answer their allegation that I took a trip as a gift. Citing a “long-standing policy” and claiming this was an internal matter, a Post Dispatch representative said I could not bring private legal counsel.

In attendance were three Guild representatives (on my behalf), and representatives from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch including two individuals from the Human Resources Department, the managing editor and my immediate editor. The newspaper’s executive editor and its assistant managing editor did not attend the meeting. The head of HR said the meeting was called to “hear my side of the situation.” She then asked for my statement, which I prepared in writing in advance for my own clarity. Below are the key points from my statement.

-- My quick trip to Washington, D.C. on 3/26/09 had nothing to do with my employment at the Post-Dispatch. Nor was it what I, or anyone else who has reviewed the facts, would consider a freelance assignment. The Guild’s contract stipulates that Post Dispatch employees can do freelance work for other entities as long as it does not create a “real or potential conflict of interest” with what the newspaper considers its “competition.”

Chronology leading up to trip and after as I detailed at the meeting:

On or about 3/23/09, I received a press release about the Metro East Citizens Land Cooperative (MECLC) holding a press conference in Washington. The group consists of mayors from East St. Louis and thirteen other surrounding Southern Illinois communities who planned to go to the nation’s capitol to convince Obama to re-direct stimulus funds to a community-based renewable energy project. Because I had written about the initiative previously, I considered this column a follow-up on the latest developments.

On 3/24/09 while working from my home in the evening, I contacted East St. Louis Mayor Parks, Laura Filbert Zacher, the spokeswoman for the MECLC and former Congressman Walter Fauntroy who had agreed to “present” the Illinois group among many others in Washington. 20 minutes of conversation was had with Parks and about two and a half hours talking with Fauntroy. The congressman and I hit it off on a personal level. We moved way beyond the East St. Louis effort and the column I was working and on to talking about his work for so many years to address the problems of poverty and wealth creation in his district and what he’s doing now. We discussed my work in this area with Take Five magazine (the publication I owned and operated for 15 years). We talked more about his past efforts to uplift poor black communities and his national and international efforts toward this effort today; and he also mentioned several organizations dedicated to this effort including the Summit Council for World Peace and its executive director Antonio Betancourt. I told Fauntroy about a book proposal I was working on. (During the meeting with the Post, I handed Post representatives a copy of the book proposal, which focuses on aligning the black agenda with President Obama’s initiatives to create vibrant, inner city communities. The book argues that the task can be done by enhancing or replicating national and international efforts currently underway. I also shared a copy on an email sent to a possible agent weeks before to show this was not a proposal I drafted overnight to defend myself). I asked Fauntroy if he would mind if I contacted him after I received a definite bite on the book to expound on our conversation about his knowledge and experiences for the book. Fauntroy said he’d be honored. I spoke to my wife about Fauntroy and the invaluable addition he would be as an interviewee in my proposed book. Later I researched Fauntroy and some of the organizations he mentioned, especially the Summit Council for World Peace and its president Betancourt. The organization’s mission statement (to educate people, especially leaders, on ideas and technologies that expand opportunities and reform structures that empower the underprivileged, to participate in wealth-creation in the United States and around the world, to address more effectively the problems of poverty) fell right in line to the theme of my proposed book. Fauntroy, Betancourt and a couple of other organizations were added to my long list of potential interviewees.

On Wednesday, 3/25, I called Zacher from the Post for follow up questions about the column about MECLC. Zacher shared that Fauntroy enjoyed our conversation and that we have a lot in common. I thanked her, got answers for my column, continued writing and turned in the column around 4:15. My wife called me from home around 6:00 and said Lara was trying to reach me. I called Lara about a half hour later. She said “they” really wanted me to come to the press conference and were considering a live feed. It would be cheaper, she said, to fly me out. She said she had found a same day flight for $258 on that would get me to Washington DC a half hour before the press conference. She said I could book the flight and I’d be reimbursed for the flight and cab fare. I stopped her there and said “Lara, I’ve written the column already from the local angle. The Post Dispatch is not interested in me writing about a national event and definitely wouldn’t fly me out to DC to cover it. I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I wouldn’t be writing about the MECLC. Zacher said, “it’s not about that, the team just really wants you to see this.” My wife and I spoke again because an e-mail had been sent to my home e-mail account from a woman by the name of Betancourt, saying basically what Lara had said. At that point, I knew this was about the bigger picture outside the MECLC -- it was about Fauntroy, Betancourt, Summit Council for World Peace, national and international connections and my book proposal. As far as I was concerned, the East St. Louis MECLC project, my column or anything else “local” was the past. I booked the flight on my credit card.

On Thursday, 3/26, I took the 6:40 am flight, landed in DC around 9:50, caught a cab and arrived at the press conference around 10:20 am. At a reception desk, a package awaited me from Fauntroy – inside was information about the project he kicked off in the early 1980s (at the Post meeting, I presented the package, showing that it was in my name, not in the Post’s name). The receptionist asked for my flight and cab receipts in order to reimburse me. He then escorted me into the press conference, introduced me to Antonio Betancourt, saying “this is the gentleman who wanted you to attend.” Betancourt gave me his card moments before the conference began. The Post-Dispatch Washington bureau reporter also came to the conference. After the press conference, he joked about how he could have stayed in the office, if he knew I was going to be there. I told him I wasn’t there for Post business. He asked that I call him later that day. After the press conference, I shook hands with Fauntroy and left immediately (no interviews) and headed for the airport. When I got there, I called home, then called the Washington bureau reporter. He asked what I planned to write. I said “probably nothing” because I had covered the MECLC in that day’s column and reiterated I was not there for the Post. If I write anything, I told him, it would be about Washington’s Metro system vs St. Louis’ Metro and/or question why our Mayor Slay wasn’t in DC pushing for stimulus money or “something columny like that.” But, I added, that would be my editor’s call, not mine. About an hour or so later, my immediate editor called to say he heard I was in DC. “Who sent me? Was I planning to write anything about the trip? Would I be back in time to file a column?” I answered all his questions and we left it that we’d talk more Friday morning.

On Friday morning 3/27, I sent my editor a summary of that day’s column submission: I planned to write about Mayor Slay and how he had ducked televised debates before the upcoming elections. Around 10:30 or so, (my editor) called me in for the brief meeting. He asked if (East St. Louis, Mayor) Parks or (Brooklyn, IL. mayor ) O’Bannon had sent me to Washington. He said there was an appearance of impropriety. I asked him, “how so?” He said the group I had just written about had paid for a trip to Washington. I disagreed, explaining that the group I had written about had nothing to do with it. I told him about the Summit Council for World Peace. I told him I paid for the trip with my own credit card but was reimbursed via check by Betancourt’s organization. I expressed a willingness return the check if that would ease any semblance of doubt on the part of the Post as to my motivations. I told the editor that I have other interests beyond St. Louis and East St. Louis and I was pursuing those interests with no connection with the Post-Dispatch. The editor insisted that the only reason anyone would be interested in me was because I work for the Post. I disagreed, arguing that these were issues I’ve championed long before becoming a Post-Dispatch employee. Besides, I said, the trip was scheduled AFTER the column was finished. I asked the editor to explain exactly who benefited if there was some sort of nefarious collusion between me and East St. Louis officials. I asked if he seriously thought any of this made sense or if he thought I actually took a bribe of some sort. He said, personally, he didn’t but upper management was upset and the assistant managing editor would probably want to talk to me later. After the brief meeting, I went back to finish my column. Around 3:00 pm, (one hour before my column would be turned in), the assistant managing editor walked over to my desk and said the managing editor wanted to see me in her office. On the way, we were joined by a union shop steward. He asked me what was going on. I told him I had no idea. Upon entering her office, the managing editor said “Sylvester, we want you to leave the building. You’re on paid leave, pending our investigation.” The shop steward asked if there were going to be some sort of discussion. The managing editor said, not until the investigation was complete. The union representative asked how long the investigation would take. The managing editor said she didn’t know. However, she stated, “this is a very serious matter that could lead to termination.” With that, I left her office and the building.

-- After my statement, the head of HR asked for clarification of when I actually talked to Fauntroy. She also wanted to know why I didn’t feel the need to tell my editors where I was that Thursday. I replied that I usually don’t inform editors of my whereabouts unless we’re tracking an ongoing story (like a recent court case I covered). I asked my immediate editor to confirm this and he nodded in the affirmative. I further stated that the Post gets many of my nights and weekends. “Just ask my wife,” I offered. The head of HR asked if there were scheduled hours for columnists to be in the office or on call. The managing editor said “yes.” The union shop steward, a long-time reporter, countered that columnists aren’t paid overtime and those he’s known write on weekends and at all odd hours of the day and night. They usually draft their own hours. That’s been the standard rule in all departments, he added. The managing editor responded by saying she was shocked to learn that one of her columnists was in DC and that I should always be available by phone. (My editor did in fact reach me by phone).

The business representative for the union stated that I was upfront and honest about the entire episode, didn’t attempt to hide any facts, offered the information of being reimbursed; that I even offered not to take the reimbursement or cash the check if it would clear up any doubts about my motivations. I stated that I had my credit card receipt for the flight and I could have just shown I paid for everything and not mention the reimbursement. Were I guilty of some scheme or gift, why did I offer the information?

The union rep asked my editor if I had ever lied about anything. The editor responded “Oh no, Sylvester has never lied about anything.”

My editor said he thought I had told him Bentacourt was on the East St. Louis groups’ board of directors. I told him, he must have misunderstood. I never said such a thing and pointed out that it wasn’t true. Bentacourt is not on MELC’s board, but is the director of the organization that invited me to Washington and had reimbursed me for the flight.

The managing editor suggested that we read the section in the company’s policy about travel. The language was very clear, she insisted. The union shop steward said he had indeed read the policy and, “Sylvester wasn’t covering a story for the Post-Dispatch.”

At that point, representatives from the Post said they had no further questions. I asked if there was anything else they needed and told them I would happy to supply whatever they wanted because I wanted everything out on the table. They said I answered all their questions. The meeting ended within less than an hour.

Sylvester Brown Jr. Silenced by the Post-Dispatch

April 13, 2009

Sylvester Brown Jr. Silenced by the Post-Dispatch

5:00 P.M. TODAY

Now former St. Louis Post-Dispatch Metro columnist Sylvester Brown Jr. will address his family, friends, readers, colleagues, and the media at Press Conference at 5:00 p.m. today. Brown will publically address the events and issues behind the protracted actions of Post-Dispatch management recently. He will publically notify the Post that he rejects their offer to exchange termination for resignation.

When: Monday, April 13
Time: 5:00 P.M.
Where: Across the street from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (900 N. Tucker Blvd. Cross streets are Cole and Martin Luther King Dr.) IN CASE OF RAIN: please go instead to 2012 Martin Luther King Drive which is just a few blocks west of the Post-Dispatch.

Letter from Antonio Betancourt, Secretary General, Summit Council for World Peace

Summit Council for World Peace

April 11, 2009

Sylvester J. Brown, Jr.

Dear Mr. Brown:

I take this opportunity to let you know how much I appreciate your interest in the ideas on economic and social justice elucidated by Equitech International, LLC, the Summit Council for World Peace and other like-minded organizations that are part of our coalition that seeks to raise people out of poverty worldwide and increase the access to ownership and capital credit.

I am so deeply sorry that your trip to attend a press conference in Washington, DC, late last month, which I understood you undertook to learn more about our coalition and about our projects and the applicability of the ideas of economic empowerment so that you could utilize that new information in a book you are in the process of writing. It is shocking to us that this has been apparently seriously misunderstood and maligned by the newspaper that runs your column. This Coalition is dealing with a legitimate and critical issue that serves our nation and deserves to be heard.

I am outraged that the Coalition for Capital Homesteading: A Movement to Expand Ownership to Every Citizen, led by former civil rights leader Dr. Walter Fauntroy, a 21 year member of Congress has been so maliciously and mendaciously attacked. This Coalition is a movement to expand owners to every city and Summit Council is a proud partner.

It is my hope that reason, good sense and cool heads will prevail, and that your true intentions will be properly understood and reputation thus remain intact.

My best wishes on finishing the important book you are writing at this historic moment in American history.

Yours sincerely,

Antonio Betancourt Secretary General